TV presenter Ferenc Szaniszló, who is known for espousing anti-Roma and anti-Semitic views during his broadcasts, has agreed to a government official’s request to return the state’s top journalism prize. On March 14, Hungary’s Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog awarded the prestigious Táncsics Prize to Szaniszló, a presenter on the pro-Government station Echo TV, sparking domestic and international outcry. Hours after announcing the award, Minister Balog acknowledged that his decision was a mistake and that he was unaware of the journalist’s past statements. The minister on Tuesday issued a letter to Szaniszló asking him to return the award, stating that Szaniszló’s views “run counter to the values espoused by myself and the government.”
In an announcement on Echo TV, Szaniszló agreed to return the prize, saying he is not a racist but a victim of “global powers,” referencing objections raised by Israel and the United States. Earlier this week, the Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Ilan Mo and the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis separately issued statements urging Balog to retract the award. They joined a chorus of domestic opposition to Balog’s decision, including from the prize committee, which was composed of primarily conservative editors and journalists. Following Balog’s announcement of the award, the committee revealed that it had advised giving honoring Szaniszló on grounds that he is “delusional” and “unworthy of recognition.”
Once a respected foreign correspondent, Szaniszló in recent years has become known for articulating elaborate conspiracy theories, along with anti-Roma and anti-Semitic views, during his broadcasts.